Report by Paula Antolini
July 8, 2017 4:08PM EDT
Top photo (above): Bethel High School 2017 graduate Sophie Morton holding balloons as she poses with Todd Ingersoll, owner of Ingersoll Auto of Danbury, after receiving a prize of a Chevrolet Cruise car, as a runner-up in the essay contest, July 7, 2017. Bottom photo (above): Bethel High School 2017 graduate Christopher Joyce, sitting in front of his home in the new car he won on July 7, 2017. Joyce is the Grand Prize Winner of a new 2017 Chevrolet Cruze car in the Ingersoll Auto of Danbury essay contest.
BETHEL ADVOCATE ON THE SCENE
VIDEOS/PHOTOS: SURPRISE! Ingersoll Presents THREE Cars (not one) to Three Deserving Bethel High School Graduates with Winning Essays
Bethel Advocate was on the scene, accompanying Todd Ingersoll in the procession of cars, witnessing each exciting moment, to bring readers the story and photos of the happy winners receiving their prizes! (Scroll to bottom of page for videos.)
Todd Ingersoll, owner of Ingersoll Auto of Danbury, drove to various locations in Bethel, CT, with his team following in a procession, to surprise the winners of his essay contest with a presentation of cars, on July 7, 2017, between 12:30 p.m. and 1:00p.m.
During the drive, Ingersoll revealed another surprise announcement Livestream. He said he would be giving away THREE cars as prizes to Bethel graduates, not just one car, as previously stated in a BHS commencement speech on June 20th when he announced the contest. He said this decision was made when he and his team read the essays and felt two other students were deserving of each receiving a car.
The entire event was covered on Facebook Livestream with many community residents watching as each prize was delivered.
Bethel High School (BHS) Principal Christopher Troetti was also there to congratulate the winners. In the videos (below) you will also hear the voice of Jennifer Gilbertie, who handles Community Relations for Ingersoll Auto Danbury, as she discusses some of the winning essays with Todd Ingersoll.
THE ESSAY CONTEST & WINNERS
Students had ten days, from the June 20th Bethel High School graduation day to the June 30th deadline, to submit a four page essay to Ingersoll, about why they deserved to be the winner of a car. June 7th was chosen as the day to reveal the winners because it was 17 days from graduation, reflecting the 2017 graduation year. So this was the day to deliver the prizes, rain or shine! And it poured.
Todd Ingersoll said, “Out of the roughly 204 kids that graduated, we got 60 fabulous essays. They did an unbelievable job. They really, really did. And it really came down to just four or five that really stood out more than almost any others, although they were all close. It really presented our team and myself with a challenge, because, you know, you’re reading these things and it really tugs at your heartstrings, some of the stories.”
Grand Prize Winner of a brand new 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback is Christopher Joyce. Runners-Up are Nadya Redmond and Sophie Morton who each won certified pre-owned Chevrolet Cruze vehicles.
A Facebook post on the Ingersoll Auto of Danbury page read, “We couldn’t pick just one essay, so we picked three. Your essays were all so touching, and we’re honored to be able to help you succeed.”
The Ingersoll name is well known in Bethel, from seeing it on many sponsorships of school and town events. We also remember when Todd Ingersoll brought 17 new cars to Bethel High School for the “Drive for Students” Fundraiser, including Buick and GMC sedans, SUV’s and a pick-up truck. Ingersoll donated $20 to the school for every test drive taken, potentially allowing BHS to earn up to $10,000 for the cause. Funds were to help BHS renovate the auditorium at the time, and 330 test drives were done totaling $6,600!
Todd Ingersoll believes in giving back to the community, as he stated in his 2017 commencement speech, and he clearly wants to pass this lesson on to students in Bethel.
And so, Ingersoll created the essay contest which ended up being a pretty amazing experience for him and his team that judged the essays.
Ingersol talked at length about the three winning essays during the drive to each home, but indicated the essays would not be published for now, because of the personal nature of the content, and a possible release needed. But he did comment Livestream to the student and parent viewers, and said, “I can tell you how proud I was to read the essays that you wrote. They really took to heart, all the students, the things that we spoke of, I know your teachers would be proud. I know as a parent, you know your heart swells when you read some of these things. Some of you guys actually took the time to write letters that said ‘I don’t deserve the car but this particular person does, for the vehicle,’ and I thought that that was pretty remarkable.”
ABOUT THE WINNING ESSAYS
Nadya Redmond / Runner-Up
About Nadya Redmond, Ingersoll said:
“Her essay was just beautifully composed. It was so heartfelt and I think really tugged at everybody’s heartstrings in our organization that was part the team that looked at the different essays. She has had a really interesting life.”
“From the time she was a little girl she kind of took me on this journey all the way to the present time and it was remarkable to look at, not only the things that she has personally overcome, but how rich in love and kindness her family is, and that just shined through. Again, as a parent, you couldn’t be prouder that she got all of those lessons and understood it. So that was really pretty cool.”
“Nadia’s fabulous essay talked a lot about her family and all the wonderful things that they have done. Her parents, as she discussed in the essay, have three children that they had biologically, and adopted actually three more, and then went to Russia and adopted two more.”
“The other thing about Nadya’s essay that was so moving and beautiful was her very very humble beginnings being born in Russia and having to overcome tremendous obstacles and her family’s remarkable gift to five children that they have adopted as their own, for a total eight children. And as Nadya said, ‘We aren’t necessarily rich with money but we are rich with love.’ And it was magnificent and just left a tear in your eye.”
“The personal sacrifice that it takes to raise one child, two, three, eight children, it leaves you speechless that somebody is so selfless, just absolutely so selfless, and we are really touched, I think, by the pictures they showed, and she took you all through the process of being adopted.
“She also spoke a lot in her essay about Bethel and how absolutely wonderful the town has been to her and all of her siblings, learning English, talking about overcoming the obstacles in summer school when she was real little, and how warm the community was, and the chance to have anew life, and live the American Dream, and go to school. She talked about when she was seven, you know, schooling wasn’t important, it was really survival … food and water. And she was really truly deserving today”
Photo: Bethel High School 2017 graduate Sophie Morton holding balloons as she poses with Todd Ingersoll, owner of Ingersoll Auto of Danbury, after receiving a prize of a Chevrolet Cruise car, as a runner-up in the essay contest, July 7, 2017.
Sophie Morton / Runner-Up
About Sophie Morton, Jennifer Gilbertie said:
“It [essay] was absolutely beautiful … unbelievable. This person wrote in about her family, she is one of, I believe, four children, Mom is supporting them all, went back to school to become a nurse and works tirelessly to provide for them, and years of schooling. She really just wrote a beautiful essay telling us about her experience. She lost her dad.”
“Just about giving back to her community, and all the things that make her unique and special. How hard she works, she’s going to be going to WestConn … I think this will really benefit her in her journey. The letter was really phenomenal, a really, really tough decision with all the people involved, reading this letter, everyone was drawn to it.”
Photo: Bethel High School 2017 graduate Christopher Joyce, sitting in front of his home in the new car he won on July 7, 2017. Joyce is the Grand Prize Winner of a new 2017 Chevrolet Cruze car in the Ingersoll Auto of Danbury essay contest.
Christopher Joyce / Grand Prize Winner
About Christopher Joyce, Ingersoll said:
“The one that kind of won the day. It absolutely was tremendously composed, and carefully, carefully executed. And this particular person took some real, I think, risks, in talking about things that people his age don’t normally talk about. His faith was discussed a lot. And it wasn’t so much that his story was heart-tugging, or that he was overcoming huge obstacles. It was why he was uniquely deserving. It was the spirit of what the essay was, uniquely deserving.”
“When you look at the way he composed the things he’s been involved with in the school, and gave back his time and his commitment to his parish, it just absolutely touched on every single thing you could ask for. And I think also when you’re reading these you try to look for somebody who not only understood the, you know, the meaning of it, but took the time to craft it in such a way that it wasn’t patting myself on the back and saying. ‘Gee aren’t I wonderful and look at all the things I’ve done.’ and listing these accolades. And that didn’t happen.”
“In the risk in talking about things like, you know, your faith and what God means to you, I loved it. I thought it was absolutely so well done. And taking that chance and saying, ‘You know what, this is who I am, this is what I stand for, and I just absolutely believe … in a higher power and my church and the things I want to do in my life.’ And his involvement with NJROTC in the school I think really speaks volumes about his personality and stuff.”
“Just all of the volunteerism. Brotherhood in Action, Christmas Tree Pick Up, sending clothing to orphanages in the Philippines, just all of the things that were highlighted in the letter, subtly, it wasn’t just saying, ‘I did this, I did that.’ Just talking about how it felt so good to pay it forward and to help, and you could really feel it when you read the letter.”
“When you listen to the things he wrote about volunteerism, it was done in a way where he understood that the giving part was the best. That the best part of the whole thing was watching … I remember him writing about watching the expression on children’s faces when they got their new sneakers, or watching a family’s eyes light up when they recognize the fact that they were going to have food on their table for Thanksgiving. These are remarkable things for an 18-year-old young man to write about. And when he goes to school, he wrote that one of the reasons he chose the school that he did was because of the motto or mantra of the school, which was, ‘Choose to be extraordinary.’ I think he is going to do extraordinary things. He took extraordinary chances when he wrote about the things that he did. He completely got what we were trying to do. And it was just so well done.”
“I think he did a great job throughout his high school career and he gave back to a town that I love so dearly myself, and I think he is uniquely deserving of the prize of the brand new car. Truly uniquely deserving. And his parents, you couldn’t be prouder of your boy. I know I couldn’t be if he were my son, I would be so incredibly proud of not only his achievements, but his leadership and the fact that he leads, I think, with a servant’s heart. I think that’s super important.”
“The best line is where he wrote, ‘My school provides me with free parking in a town that needs me. All that’s missing is the vehicle itself.’ ”
Photo above: The prize presentation began at the Stony Hill Fire Department where all those involved in the prize-awarding procession met as a starting point before heading to the first-prize winner’s house. Todd Ingersoll (inside car) and others gathered in the pouring rain.
DELIVERING THE CAR PRIZES
The first stop was for Nadya Redmond, who was not home but was in New York City. Ingersoll knew she would not be there but kept the suspense going for Livestream viewers, to announce the first winner. Redmond, and few other students who entered the essay contest, were notified the morning of July 7th, that they were finalists, to insure they would be watching and at home during the prize giveaway in Bethel, but were also told NOT all finalists are winners. Ingersoll said the winners are possibly watching live, but do not know what they’ve won.
Ingersoll announced on Livestream that Redmond won a Chevrolet Cruze, certified pre-owned, light blue color automobile, as the procession approached her home. She can pick up the car at Ingersoll Auto Danbury after all paperwork is completed.
The second stop was at Sophie Morton’s home, who was waiting at her front door after watching the Livestream, and saw that cars were approaching her home. She walked out very surprised and happy. In fact, she almost couldn’t stop smiling as a large bouquet of balloons was placed in her hands along with the presentation of a certified pre-owned black Chevrolet Cruze, as family and friends surrounded her. Ingersoll and Morton gave each other a hug. Morton also hugged Principal Troetti, thanked everyone, and exclaimed, “This is insane. Thank you so much. Oh my God. I literally can’t believe it. Oh my God. This is amazing.”
The final stop was for the first prize winner, Christopher Joyce, who was the Grand Prize Winner of a shiny new black 2017 Chevrolet Cruze hatchback automobile.
Receiving the car was very emotional for Joyce, so much so he was speechless at times. Joyce seemed to have a moment of joyful prayers of thanks, as he walked out onto his front lawn, crouching down with his hands together, then standing up as Ingersoll approached him. He alternated between pressing his hands together to give thanks, and placing his hands to his face in awe, close to (happy) tears, and hugging everyone including Ingersoll and his own Mom. His first words were, “Thank you so much. Oh my God. I really don’t know what to say right now.”
Ingersoll leaned into the driver’s side car window as Joyce sat in the driver’s seat of his new car for the first time, and said to Chris, “It’s pretty awesome and we are just so thrilled for you and we know you’re going to do extraordinary things. You enjoy your new car, do great things with it. And remember, to all the kids that are in your class, define your own success and give back to a town that’s been good to all of us.”
As they talked about how he decided on the content of his essay, Joyce later said to Ingersoll, “I was debating, and I know religion is a touchy subject, but I figured, hey, this is what made me who I am and this is what I care about, and I figured, why not.”
Joyce’s final comment to Bethel Advocate was, “I’m extremely thankful for all Mr. Ingersoll and his company have done and I’m extremely grateful. Honestly, I don’t know what to say at this point. This is the first time I’ve had anything like this happen to me. I thank my parents and really just thank God for this. I mean, this is truly extraordinary, and I won’t let anybody here down, I can promise you that. So thank you for everything you guys do, and I have no words still.”
The rain was non-stop the entire time but in all the excitement, no one seemed to notice. Families hugged and one neighbor shouted congratulations from his driveway.
Several members of the Bethel Police were there, including Captain Stephen Pugner, to escort the procession and lead the way to all three winners’ homes.
VIEW MORE PHOTOS and VIDEOS below.
Click on each photo to view larger.
Grand Prize Winner CHRISTOPHER JOYCE:
Runner-Up SOPHIE MORTON:
Photo: Sophie Morton holding balloons as she poses with Todd Ingersoll after receiving a prize of a Chevrolet Cruise car, as a runner-up winner in the essay contest, July 7, 2017.
Runner-Up Nadya Redmond:
Photo: Light blue Chevrolet Cruze car awarded to runner-up Nadya Redmond who was not home but in NY city on July 7th when prizes were presented.
SHORT 1: VIDEO OF WINNING MOMENT Runner-Up / SOPHIE MORTON:
SHORT 2: VIDEO OF WINNING MOMENT Grand Prize Winner / Christopher Joyce:
VIEW full length VIDEO versions (showing entire car rides) below:
VIEW BELOW for VIDEO of ENTIRE CAR PRESENTATION RIDE / Part 1 / Runner-Up Nadya Redmond:
VIEW BELOW for VIDEO of ENTIRE CAR PRESENTATION RIDE / Part 2 / Runner-Up Nadya Redmond (continued) and Runner-Up Sophie Morton:
VIEW BELOW for VIDEO of ENTIRE CAR PRESENTATION RIDE / Part 3 / Grand Prize Winner Christopher Joyce: